Book Reviews

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

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Well I’m sobbing. I finished this book over this past weekend and I am still thinking about it. And I know how late to this party I am… but A Man Called Ove  lives up to all the hype it has gotten. It’s relational, it’s powerful, and it’s very emotional.

As the book opens, you can’t help but laugh at Ove’s evergrumpy demeanor. But as you continue to turn the pages, you unwrap the history of Ove and the reason he acts the way he does. And you just can’t help but fall in love with him. 

This book has so many layers, each one a different kind of beautiful. I particularly loved Ove and Sonja’s relationship. Sonja’s character is such a beautiful person; someone who brings joy by just walking into a room. Someone who accepts everyone as they are and loves them for it. She was the perfect companion for Ove. “He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.” And reading about Ove grappling with loss was shattering. What does life look like after you lose your person?

The other characters in this book make this small group of row houses seem like a dream community to live in. I adored each neighbor and the contributions they made to the story. Each one brought a unique (and adorable) perspective to Ove and gave him reasons to live. 

Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the greatest motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.

Gosh, Frederick Backman is such a remarkable author; his writing left me in tears at multiple points in this book. I recently found Beartown at a thrift store (can’t beat 99 cent books) and I cannot wait to dive into that one!

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Atria Books; July 15th, 2014; 1476738017; Fiction/Contemporary

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